A GROUP THAT campaigns for voting rights for Irish citizens abroad has said that an estimated 400,000 Irish people who have left the country as a result of economic problems are being disenfranchised.
The We’re Coming Back group have made a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs as part of the department’s review of Ireland’s foreign policy.
Their submission states that Ireland is one of only a few EU member states that doesn’t allow citizens resident outside their country a vote:
Denied the right to vote in national elections at home, and yet to earn the corresponding right to vote in their country of residence, Irish emigrants constitute a small group of European migrants that can elect no national representatives, anywhere in the world. They are completely denied any access to the democratic process at the national level.
Their submission comes after the European Commission said last week that “such disenfranchisement practices can negatively affect EU free movement rights”.
The EC said that Ireland, Denmark, Cyprus, Malta and the United Kingdom have rules in place that lead to a loss of national voting rights as a result of periods spent residing in another EU member state.
The commission notes that EU member states are allowed to make their own decisions on who can vote in national elections but have issued “guidance” to tackle what they see as a problem.
They suggest that member states should:
Enable their nationals who make use of their right to free movement in the EU to retain their right to vote in national elections if they demonstrate a continuing interest in the political life of their country.
They also say that states should ensure that nationals resident in another EU member state to should be able to vote electronically.
Last year the Constitutional Convention recommended to the Government that Irish citizens living outside of the state should be able to vote in Presidential elections.